A business supplies redirection scam

📅 Posted 2020-09-11

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Recently a friend called me for advice, as their business had been the target of a particular form of order redirection scam that I haven’t heard of before.

I’m sharing this in the hope that we can all learn to identify scams and report them through the proper channels.

The scam goes like this…

An order is delivered to the business. It’s something they would regularly order, from a regular supplier, so nothing too unusual here. The quantity is a little different to how much they would order (it’s too much stock compared to normal), but maybe there’s a plan to use it all up in the coming months.

This particular order, the value of around $3000, is for a service which is clearly advertised on the business’ website. The brand is also on the website and in this case, the brand and the supplier are the same company.

The order is accepted by the front desk staff, unpacked and loaded into stock for storage until it’s needed. This particular product does have an expiry date and requires additional equipment to use, so can’t simply be sold and used by regular members of the public.

A phone call comes in, proporting to be from the supplier, saying they have made a mistake and sent the package to the wrong customer. No matter! They can send through a consignment note for a shipping company to come and pick up the order. It will just need to be packaged back up again, all at no real cost to the business.

The order is repacked carefully by the front desk staff and they await an email with a consignment note, which arrives in due time. The note is fixed onto the package, the courier turns up and takes the package away.

So far, so good.

One staff member realises that the boxes were marked with permanent marker as part of their regular restocking process. This is to mark when they are getting low, so that they know when to make an order to restock. She calls up the supplier to appologise for marking the boxes, because the ‘real’ customer might be surprised to find marks on the boxes.

The supplier is not concerned by the writing on the boxes but is surprised because their courier had not confirmed they have picked up the order and it was only just delivered in the morning.

This is when the penny drops.

The staff of the business checks the consignment note, it looks real. The courier who turned up appeared real, too. The sender of the note? A throwaway Gmail address with a random number as the username.

Oh no.

A call to the supplier to ask who made the order reveals it was made by a person with a male voice. The voice claimed to be the principal of the business, who’s name is easily gathered from reading the business’ website. There isn’t a lot verification or authorisation done here in order to make an order, which is an interesting oversight in the supplier’s process.

In hindsight, it’s probably a better idea to return ‘incorrectly’ delivered packages back to the supplier, just to be sure. But it’s certainly far more efficient to just go directly to the ‘right’ customer.

A quick call to the courier means they can track the package and stop it in it’s traces. Interestingly enough, the destination address was for a city in another country (New Zealand), quite a ‘mistake’ to make.

At this point the scam can be stopped, the package returned to the supplier and an investigation into this attempted fraud can be started. I can only assume the destination address in New Zealand is unrelated to the scammer, so that it can be a conveniently ‘disconnected’ address in case the scam is interrupted, as it was in this case.

For those in Australia, I recommend reporting scams at Scamwatch and cybercrime at ReportCyber.

We all need to be vigilant.

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